Happy Place

We are in our happy place.  We stayed two days at Great Sail Cay waiting for the winds to let up before moving further.  Actually we stuck our nose out the next day and turned right back around-sound familiar?! We had never really got ashore here before as we’ve only used it as a stopping place to stage for a crossing so we went exploring.  Our friend played tour guide. It’s a rather large island and uninhabited except for the wild pigs.  It used to be home to a US missile tracking station.  The foundations and bases for some tanks are all that are left. There is a long secluded beach so Kai was thrilled. Two days later we poked out again, it really wasn’t much better so we had a sporty ride down to Crab Cay.  We enjoyed the sail more than expected.  From there, you guessed it…….Manjack!  Our happy place!


We arrived at Manjack just in time for the weather to turn delightful and to help welcome the two newest inhabitant of the island, Daisy and Mae, two girl goats.  You know I just adore goats and was thrilled to lend a hand.  Actually I didn’t do much but escort them from the boat to the tractor to the new pen and tell them how sweet they were.  Keith, who actually used to have two pet goats, Dollar and Mischief, took one look at the pen and said they are were going to jump out.  The little one did. They have new and improved quarters now.

^^Any fresh fruit over here is a treat, getting a chance to pick some star fruit has to top the list.  Per a recommendation, I am planning on an upside down cake with a few of mine.  

On the topic of cooking, we of course got in some diving and have found the lobsters to be plentiful at the moment.  We keep saying we don’t care for lobster, but while in Florida we had lobster hot pot and changed our minds.  Lobster hot pot, the best as I can describe it, is like a Chinese fondue but with a spicy, chili broth for both veggies and lobster-and other meats.  You dump your veggies and meats in, let them cook in the boiling broth and then retrieve them back out with chop sticks to eat over rice. Friends had us over for dinner for this amazing experience and I can’t wait to have it again! Unfortunately it is an involved meal and quite a production so I decided to finally find some recipes that worked for the everyday and decided to experiment while we were not trying to serve guests. My undertaking has resulted in our own version of Bubba Gump on board. We’ve had: lobster and grits, lobster Mac-n-cheese, steamed lobster, lobster egg rolls, pan seared lobster, lobster buffalo dip, fried lobster with four dipping sauces, and lobster salad. All in the last 2 1/2 days! To be fair (and so you might not judge so harshly) I did reduce all the recipe sizes by half or more. We still prefer conch but the egg rolls and fried lobster are keepers.  We will leave the lobster Mac-n-cheese and pan seared.  I wish I had taken some photos of our experiments-you would have seen one messy galley in the background! Tonight Keith asked for anything but lobster for dinner.  We had grouper piccata.

Besides diving and cooking, we’ve been enjoying the beaches, trails, and mangrove creeks filled with baby sea turtles.  The plan had been to shoot threw the Abacos quickly this year, but why-it’s our happy place.  We are going to give ourselves a few more days of the diving we know we will want for later and then we will start putting some miles in.  The water is already cold so it’s time to get south.  Besides we are eager to go beyond the Bahamas this winter.


^^baby turtle in the turtle grass.



Green Turtle and Manjack

We are back in The Green Turtle / Manjack Cay neighborhood.  It feels a little like coming home-in a sweet way.  Almost immediately we reconnected with our friends Gregory and Lucie from Pushkar and got busy catching up and swapping stories about how windy the winter was.  We went to town and Martha and Scott, the owners of Sid’s Grocery, waved us in when the saw us walking past their storefront.  We had missed their sweet, immaculate little store.  And them.  We talked to them about the stores in the Exumas and they asked if it had been as windy down there.  Keith got his hair cut at the same little hair salon that is hidden behind a white picket fence and overgrown tropical plants as the last time, the owner remembered what he asked for and asked about our winter and where we had gone.  He told us how windy it had been there.  At Manjack we went diving on some of our favorite little coral heads and Keith came up with a hogfish for dinner within the first few minutes.  We haven’t even SEEN a hogfish since we left here a few months ago so it was pretty exciting for us.  Hogfish and conch for dinner, even our old Abaco routines returned so effortlessly.  We stopped by to say Hi to Bill and Leslie, the property owners at Manjack, and were invited in for key lime and coconut rum drinks served with Nutella on freshly cracked coconuts from their beach as an afternoon dessert.  (I think I’m going to have to start implementing an afternoon dessert on the boat, it’s quite delightful.) We talked about where we planned to go next and their plans for a new dock facing West to watch the sunsets on. And, of course, we talked about how windy of a winter it had been.  I guess  we weren’t the only ones who had noticed!

Sometimes it’s really exciting to sail into a new anchorage for the first time and explore a new town and search out new dive spots; and sometimes it’s just as nice to be somewhere that feels as comfy as a favorite pair of pajamas. 

^^ We love the trails on Manjack.  This is the beach on the anchorage side of the island, the pictures below are of the beach on the Atlantic side of the island.  They are both too beautiful 🙂

We also love taking the dinghy and exploring up Turtle Creek att Manjack.  It is appropriately named as at any one time you can probably count five or six baby turtles scooting about.  There is usually some small sharks and rays enjoying the shallow mangrove creek as well.



^^The calm before the storm.  

Well, we knew the wind was coming.  It was certainly not a surprise, but still….holy crap!  An afternoon squall, or a windy day is one thing, a solid week of 20-35 knot winds is another, at least here in the Bahamas.  It very much interrupts the normal activities of the day.  For one, absolutely no dinghy rides offshore, or much of anywhere for that matter unless you don’t mind being drenched. (One of us minds getting drenched more than the other) Limited dinghy exploration means limited fishing grounds.  We’ve even resorted to trying to catch fish with a fishing pole.  Not so much our talent, yet.  Not only is the dinghy range shrunk up, but so is the range of the big boat.  We’ve been bopping between Green Turtle and Manjack, these two islands are only about 5 miles apart, but for the most part have been pretty much pinned down here in Manjack.  Not a bad place to be stuck, I’ll admit.  We are working on exploring all the trails and it’s cool enough even Kai can come along even for the long ones.  But as much as I love this island, and it’s a whole bunch, the water has turned down right cold and we don’t want to be cold. We’ve even broken out the jeans and sweatshirts, which feel absolutely awesome to wear when drenched in salt water by the way. No question, it is time to head south! Fast.  Of course to head south we have to wait for the winds and seas to settle enough to make one tiny little offshore jump around Whale Cay and that still hasn’t happened.  In these winds that pass is nothing but breakers.  So we are pinned for a few more days.  That’s OK, I haven’t found the wild orchid trail yet.  It is on the mental To Do list for tomorrow. 

We aren’t the only boat pinned here, which was nice come Thanksgiving day. The rain held off allowing for a bountiful potluck dinner held on shore at a guest cottage.  Amazingly, for here, it even contained a turkey!  It was a fun afternoon filled with stories and lots of laughing and some recipe swapping. It softened the feeling of homesickness Keith and I were feeling for our friends and family back home.

^^This picture so summed up the day.  Laughing, Turkey (that is what is being carved), and…..oooh, an open wifi connection-emails from home!

^^ This photo was taken just before the winds filled in, a nice reminder of what we hope to see again next week. It is our friend’s boat “The Lucky One”  aboard which a devine dinner of chicken piccata was served and enjoyed!  Just a few more good moments for the memory bank.


School Days

Remember in school having to do the dreaded “word” problems in math class.  I hated them, they seemed utterly useless.  In case you’ve forgotten them they went something like this:

QUESTION: A small sailboat is sailing (motoring) straight into the wind that is blowing 13 knots and fighting a 2 foot chop heading toward a safe harbor 23 miles away.  A tropical depression is 160 miles away, also heading toward the same safe harbor from the opposite direction traveling at a speed of 15 knots per hour.  Tropical storm force winds extend 90 miles from the center. Will the small boat or the tropical storm force winds make it to the safe harbor first?

ANSWER: If you are aboard this small sailboat, forget the stupid math problem!  Hoist the anchor and GO!!! NOW!!! (See, useless)

That was pretty much our Monday morning drama.  We knew a tropical LO/depression/storm was forming and knew it would be passing close (and to the East) of us and the anchorage we were in was very suitable for the forecast we had received up until Sunday night when it came across that there was a chance that the storm may roll up on the West Side (or directly over us) in less than 24 hours. Total game changer, all of a sudden the anchorage we were in would provide no protection and we were looking at 40+ knots of wind.  Oh Crap.  At the very first light on Monday we pulled anchor and busted our butts motoring straight into the wind as the storm winds were supposed to reach the area by the afternoon.  We were literally racing tropical storm Kate to Green Turtle.  We figured we could get there by noon and hoped that was sooner than Kate by at least an hour or so.  As we approached we could see the storm’s edge.  We pulled into Green Turtle under blue skies, breathed a sigh of relief, and readied the boat for some wind.  I also took a long shower and put out the rain catchers ready to fill the almost empty water tanks. Then we waited for the winds.  And waited. And waited, all while swatting mosquitos in the hot, windless anchorage. We didn’t have internet but by 7:00pm it was apparent that the storm wasn’t coming our way.  We got nothing more than an hour of grey skies and a rainbow from Kate.  In an ungrateful moment, I began whining. We really needed to catch some water and had been counting on her rain!


^^It might be hard to tell with Keith’s feet propped up and all, but we really were rushing as fast as we could and were a little stressed at the moment.  That is Kate on the horizon looking closer to Green Turtle than we were.  Turns out, the worry was for no reason.

^^we SAW Kate, from a distance.

^^I would have taken the rain over the rainbow if given the choice.

With our unexpected diversion back to Green Turtle, we let go of the idea of getting back up to Double Breasted.  The water is already getting chilly and we are looking at heading South instead of North.  Weather has other plans for us at the moment though.  Kate may have completely missed us but a strong cold front is coming in to sit on us for a week or so and will be here in a few days.  All the boats took these last few good days before the wind to scoot along to where they want to hide out the “blow”.  We wanted to use the calm days for diving instead, so Manjack it is again. We also wanted to meet up with some more friends just arriving to the Bahamas.  Remember how we just got together with two other boats from our dock, well, we just met up with a third! “The Lucky One” is in town too!  Also, our friends from Pushkar arrived.  The last few weeks have almost felt like the first day back at school when you’re catching up with all your friends you haven’t seen for the whole summer.  Only it’s not school, so it’s much more fun. 

We’ve also been meeting new friends, at Manjack we were invited to a New Moon party on the beach by the local home-owners.  Three of the boats in the anchorage all belong to the same neat family.  The parents are on one boat, the daughter and her husband are on another, and the other daughter and girlfriend are on a third boat; they are all cruising together.  It is a musical family and they all brought guitars and harmonicas, other locals brought drums and more guitars, and everyone brought food and drinks. An unforgettable night of good music around a campfire on a beach happened.  I write this blog to help me remember my experiences, but this night I will remember regardless, in fact, I don’t really even know how to capture the night.  It was just one of those, I don’t want to be anywhere but here kind of moments.  Though I will admit, climbing out of the cockpit and stepping over a pile of stripped-off clothes that were caked in sand, soaked with bug spray, and reeking of campfire smoke the next morning was a gentle reminder of why my head felt like it had been used as one of the drums the night before!





Beach Bowling and Other Fun Stuff

^^lovely photos by Lisa **

After one good, much needed night of sleep it was game-on!  A little diving and collecting the makings for a seafood dinner was priority number one.  We hit the reefs and cuts with the crew of Saraid.  Unfortunately it was too windy to really make it out to the outer reefs of Manjack, the waves were breaking.  The inner coral heads we did dive were not the bright and vibrant ones we love but still a good dive and provided Keith with hogfish.  Later we investigated some shallower spots and were every one was rewarded with conch and lobster. Keith picked up a Mutton Snapper.   

Lisa looked pretty happy with her conch catch!  Ben cut his conch cleaning time in half.  Keith got his fishing fix in and I made an overflowing platter of very fresh seafood served family style.  After dinner, we got a lesson on the stars and constellations, something Keith and I know so little about and truly enjoyed. 

^^Lisa with two of her conchs :)**

^^The boys cleaning the catch**

^^Hogfish, Mutton Snapper, Mahi, lobster, and conch served with Lisa’s caraway coleslaw and mango salsa. YUM!!!  I am now searching the islands for caraway seed!**


The next morning Keith and I went out for a dive by ourselves.  In the conch-hunting excitement Saraid’s inflatable dinghy got a hole so they had to get a patch on it and in the meantime it was out of commission.  We found that we aren’t the only ones who like conch, this octopus looked quite happy with his catch!  Keith tried to tug on the shell just enough for me to get a better photo but the octopus just clung on tighter and dragged it further up into his hole. He kept us fascinated for quite a while. The camouflage is amazing!

^^The octopus is hard to see, look for his eyeballs.👀

In the afternoon, we picked up Ben and Lisa for a little shore-time excursion and took one of the walking paths to the oceanside beach.  After all these years, we now know what poisonwood looks like.  Thankfully we didn’t learn it the hard way!  Lisa is incredibly knowledgable about the local vegetation and wildlife and we learned a lot.  On the beach we made the best of the ever-present plastic garbage and an impromptu game of bowling kept us entertained.  Ben won on style points!  That evening Lisa made a conch salad like I’ve never tasted with a coconut milk base.  I am now obsessed.  She also made a curry version, Keith is now obsessed.

^^Poisonwood.  Very distinctive, you wouldn’t think it would have taken us that long to figure it out!



For the following two days we went back to Green Turtle.  It is a ghost town, season hasn’t quite started.  Saraid was the only boat in the marina and we were the only cruising boat in the anchorage.  Keith gave up on growing his hair out (it was getting in the way of his mask) and we found the island’s salon and got it cut. We spent a fun day touring the island with Ben and Lisa on their rented golf cart in search of pretty beaches and conch fritters.  The fritters were harder to find than you would think!  Finally at the Wrecking Tree they said they would make an order just for us.  They hit the spot!





Manjack Cay

It’s been about the snorkeling lately.  Manjack Cay has a reef all along the Atlantic side close to the cay.  The depths are only about 20-30 feet and the reefs extend up to the surface, most too shallow to even swim over.  Each little section is so different from the last.  One section had huge elk horn corals all the way to the surface other sections are more dense with fans.  They are all spectacular and we haven’t gotten tired of them yet.  I have had problems with my underwater camera and wasn’t able to salvage any photos from the first few days of snorkling here, but finally got the other go-pro camera up and running, unfortunately it was very overcast and so not so many photos still.  Working on it.

Manjack seems to have a bit of a reputation with sharks, everyone we know, including us, seems to have a “shark story” from here.  It’s been pretty tame so far.  We did have one reef shark that was quite curious.  Keith and I both had our spears pointed at him and he still came up to get a close-up look at Keith as we swam back to the dinghy.  I got into the dinghy first.  Keith said I splashed too much doing so.  My exit from the water into the dinghy is less than graceful to begin with, however the gracefulness factor goes down exponentially depending on the proximity of sharks.  Our only other encounter was with three nurse sharks which normally we don’t mind too much.  Keith was checking out a hole when three big sharks swam out of a crack one at a time.  He saw a grouper in that hole that he wanted to go for it still.  I saw one of the sharks circle back (the photo) and told him that I was in the mood for Italian sausage and pasta for dinner 🙂

On the days that the weather was too cloudy to do a lot of diving we took the time to get a few housekeeping type of chores done.  We finally scrubbed the green beard of growth off the waterline, scrubbed the hull (underwater), and changed a zinc.  We have to have picked up at least half a knot of speed now.  I did several bucket loads of laundry.  (Note: if you are ever lonely in your anchorage try hanging every piece of underwear that you own out on the lifelines.  You might just go from the only boat there to having a whole bay of neighbors.  It worked for me!)  Keith also spent some time tweaking our battery-state monitor installation.  It now tells us what we already knew, we use too much power each day.  It has been decided that my array of computer, iPad and camera batteries draw a noticeable amount of power-especially on those cloudy days.  We need the sun for those solar panels to work! The cloudy days, at least a few in a row, require the Honda generator to keep up.